Page images



Product of Canned Fruit and Vegetables for the Year 1909.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed]
[merged small][ocr errors]

The Relation of Occupation to Health.

"It is as essential to the medical man to acquaint himself with the occupation of a patient, as an important health factor, a's with the hygiene of his home and neighborhood, or with his family history. And it is for him important to arrive at a correct estimate of the part played by employment in producing the symptoms 'he detects, or in causing the mortality he deplores.”


Lecturer at the Royal College of
Physicians and Surgeons,

London, England.

Many of the occupations in which men and women are employed have peculiarities distinctly injurious to health, by reason of conditions. inseparable from them, in addition to which there are also closely associated circumstances leading to accidents that are often much more serious in their potency for evil. In other words, the risks of occupation are divisible into those that are incidental, apparently essential, and those that are accidental, or non-essential.

Of the two, the non-essential while not the most constantly active, is undoubtedly the most serious as a source of friction on the lives and health conditions of persons employed in such industries.

The physical conditions of trade and occupations differ widely, and it is not always easy to distinguish the incidental from the accidental evils against which those who follow them are forced to contend. Indoor labor of any kind is more or less hurtful, but its final effects will vary according to the peculiar environment of the place in which it is performed. Glass workers, blast furnace men and moulders are necessarily exposed to intense heat, but the extent of its effect on health is largely dependent on other conditions. Profuse perspiration is a normal incident of employment in such places, but reason does not-although it should, restrain the suffering, overheated workman from seeking relief in a cooling draught of air at an open door or window, although well aware that lingering sickness may be the immediate, and death itself the ultimate consequence of his indiscretion. The fact is that overtaxed endurance calling for immediate relief will not be denied, no matter what results may follow.

Liability to such forms of health impairment should therefore be regarded as an incident inseparable from these and other occupations of like character. Practically all forms of employment have their own peculiar incidental physical drawbacks, which should be taken into account in summing up the evil influence upon life and health appertaining to each occupation, and the effects of these are either increased or diminished by other circumstances

attending the labor itself, or connected with the individual employed, that is to say—his diet, habits of life, and general sanitary surroundings at home.

Naturally the more laborious occupations bring about a condition of incompetency for work at an earlier period of life, or produce at intervals, more or less serious ailments which necessitate a cessation of labor either permanent or for a time. Those who are forced out of such industries permanently by reason of failing muscular strength or impaired physical power, pass into others not so exacting with regard to these qualities, or cease working altogether; the consequence of this movement is that workers in the more laborious occupations are credited with lower death rates than are warranted by actual facts, as compared with persons whose employment requires less physical vigor, or who follow no occupation at all.

The selection of an occupation being largely a matter of personal judgment, it follows that such as require unusual physical strength and endurance will be avoided by men who are weak in these respects, and taken up generally by those who are more robust; and of these, many whose strength falls below the required standard, pass out to enroll themselves in less exacting occupations, against which medical statistics are sure to charge the impaired vitality for which it was only slightly if at all responsible. Extreme physical exertion is a cause of disease; but the whole frame or only a part may participate in the excess, and the injury suffered will depend on sex, age, habits of living, the social status of the worker, and other peculiarities of the occupation followed.

The circumstance whether an occupation is of an indoor or outdoor character, is of primary importance. Everything considered, outdoor labor is less unhealthy than indoor; some of its distinct advantages are free air, free moyement,, freedom from monotony and a wide intercourse with others, which assists mental development and encourages the social instinct. Farmers, sailors and railroad men are fair examples of these occupations, but in the case of the two latter callings there are incidental risks scarcely susceptible of mitigation, which probably more than offsets the hygienic advantages enjoyed by those who follow them.

The evils of dust producing trades are materially lessened when pursued in the open, or in only partially inclosed places to all parts of which the air has free access. This is proven by writers on the grinders' asthman, who state that at Sheffield, England, in former times, "when the men worked in rude sheds placed on the banks of streams with the object of securing water-power, their health was better, though they were exposed to winds, draughts and cold, than in subsequent years when after steam power came into use, they were transferred to inclosed workshops."

Indoor artisans of nearly all trades are affected more or less by vitiated air, even in factories constructed in accordance with the strictest rules of modern hygienic science, many fine examples of which are to be found in New Jersey. In the majority of manufactories engaged in the production of one or more standard articles there is great monotony in the methods of working, no matter what branch of employment is pursued. Specialization of work and the production of interchangeable parts which has been brought to a high degree of perfection in many factory industries, has reduced the workman to little more than a mere appendage of the machine.

Day by day he goes through the same stereotyped movements of hands or feet without a variation of any kind that would create a feeling of personal interests in the results of his labor, for the product is predetermined by the mechanical arrangement of the machine and his mind has nothing whatever to do with it. The hands become highly trained in rapidity of motion, and instinct usurps the place of mind, which, from long years of non-use while at such employment, loses much of its original power. The man continues his wearisome task from day to day, earning enough to supply his current requirement, but without prospect of escaping from toil while he is able to perform it, or hope that a time will come when a competence acquired by his labor will enable him to retire.

For the purpose of illustrating the health destroying and 'spirit crushing monotony of such work, the writer may mention an instance that came under his own observation in one of the greatest industrial establishments in the State, where the flooring consisting of pine boards one and one-half inches thick has to be renewed in front of certain machines once a year because the operator's feet, from its being necessary to stand in one position constantly, wear their way completely through the boards, leaving in their gradual descent, apertures the exact shape of his shoes and of a size not more than a couple of inches larger than the same. He has seen also steel and cast iron levers which actuated some of the machinery, worn completely through by the countlessly recurring grasp of the workman's hands, always necessarily in the same place.

Sedentary labor and indoor occupations of practically all kinds with their collateral circumstances, are now contributing a great deal, probably more than all other causes to the spreading of pulmonary consumption ; there seems to be no doubt as to the alarmingly rapid growth of this dread disease having been coincident with the establishment and development of our modern factory system, and that the source of the trouble was to a large extent in the bad air of illy ventilated factory buildings of the earlier years. These structures are still very numerous, particularly in the large cities, but factory legislation of the past twenty-five years where faithfully and intelligently carried into effect, has brought about a modification of conditions which should and probably ha's, resulted in some improvement. These laws are directed primarily to the mitigation of avoidable or nonessential evils in indoor occupations responsibility for which is chargeable to the negligence or ignorance of employers, and in a lesser degree to employes also; but even with the most conscientious vigilance on the part of officials charged with their enforcement, the blight of unhealthfulness still remains, because of the many collateral conditions more or less intimately associated with indoor labor that cannot in the nature of things, be altered or abolished by legislation.

Sedentary labor is a term properly applied only to labor carried on in a sitting posture, but custom sanctions its application to all kinds of indoor employment demanding but little muscular activity, whether the work be performed sitting or standing. In fact, sedentary work might with propriety be defined as occupation with insufficient exercise for the whole body, and carried on indoors. In some of its varieties the movements required are very insignificant as in the case of those who attend many kinds of auto

« EelmineJätka »